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A 'perfect fit': Drag queens glam up story hour at Toronto library

Fay Slift, a.k.a. local kindergarten teacher John Paul Kane, said kids just "get" drag queens, who they see as "technicolor cartoon characters come to life."

From left, Fay Slift, Miss Fluffy Souffle, and guest author Catherine Hernandez read to kids at Glad Day Bookshop in the one year anniversary of the program in Toronto.

Natasha Gerschon for Metro / Metro Order this photo

From left, Fay Slift, Miss Fluffy Souffle, and guest author Catherine Hernandez read to kids at Glad Day Bookshop in the one year anniversary of the program in Toronto.

Miss Fluffy Soufflé applied bright blue lipstick, donned over size pink glasses and finished off the look off with a giant inflatable wig, before heading out to greet a group of kids and their parents at Glad Day Bookshop, Wednesday night.

Soufflé, known by day as Kaleb Robertson, is just one of the local drag queens who's picked up on the North-America wide trend of reading to kids in a colourful performance that comes with a powerful message of acceptance.

This week's event was the third in a series of four for Robertson and Fay Slift, who have been doing story hour in Toronto for about a year.

"We've kind of built up a little squad of groupies," said Robertson.

"We're basically just clowns."

Robertson said he and Kane, a kindergarten teacher, both have experience with kids so saw the idea as a "perfect fit."

"I think the only difference of the story time as to when I'm performing is that maybe we wear a little more clothing," said Robertson with a laugh.

Fay Slift, left, and Miss Fluffy Soufflé are two of the drag queens who participate in regular events reading to kids at Glad Day Bookshop. The program celebrated its one year anniversary on June 20, 2017.

Natasha Gerschon/ Metro

Fay Slift, left, and Miss Fluffy Soufflé are two of the drag queens who participate in regular events reading to kids at Glad Day Bookshop. The program celebrated its one year anniversary on June 20, 2017.

They read both LGBTQ content like Red: A Crayon's Story, about a blue crayon that's mistakenly labelled as red, as well as fun stuff like The Book With No Pictures, while letting kids know it's OK to be different.

The concept has also made it's way into the Toronto Public Library, with two events this weekend.

Scott Robins, children's services specialist at the Don Mills Branch, said he wants to keep the unconventional story time going permanently and not just around pride.

"Obviously, different kinds of families exist all year long," said Robins, who is also the selector for LGBTQ books across the library system.

The library sees itself as supporting schools, Robins said, and the idea fits with the new Ontario curriculum's shift towards having conversations with younger kids about differences in families, sexual orientation and gender identity.

"It's also responding to the needs of the growing number of LGBTQ families in the city and having kids feel that their life experiences are being reflected," he added.

Fay Slift, a.k.a. local kindergarten teacher John Paul Kane, said kids just "get" drag queens, who they see as "technicolor cartoon characters come to life."

The tiny fans are also great ambassadors for older generations.

"Those kids carry that sensitivity and openness to people," said Kane, "and in turn influence their families."

"That will start opening and broadening people's ideas of how wonderful it is that we have difference in our society and our world, as opposed to fearing it."

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